The liberal Washington, D.C., based group iVote has dropped over $1 million in the closing weeks of the little-watched Arizona secretary of state race as part of a multi-state effort to flip top election officials to the “D” column.
The super PAC’s stated goal, according to its website, is “Electing Democratic voting rights champions as secretary of state and passing automatic voter registration in states across the country.”
The site explains: “The efforts to stop certain people from voting are led by Republican secretaries of state across the country. While it’s a little known office, state-level secretaries of state are the most important official in determining who votes and who doesn’t.”
The group’s 2018 target states include Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio.
Early this year, The Washington Post reported that iVote planned to spend at least $5 million in these swing states.
A review of the campaign finance report in Arizona shows it has contributed just shy of $2 million in its efforts to elect Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs over Republican Steve Gaynor as the next secretary of state.
At a Democrat candidates forum in Flagstaff in April, Hobbs pledged, “We going to do very well electing statewide Democrats, and the secretary of state’s office is how we’re going to hold on to those wins. How we’re going to continue to make gains in the legislature and really create a state that reflects all of our values.”
The Western Journal reached out to Hobbs’ campaign asking what she meant by the comment and how she intended to use the office to reshape the Grand Canyon State, but received no response.
Gaynor told The Western Journal that Hobbs’ view “doesn’t sound good for democracy, if you have somebody who wants to use the secretary of state’s office to weight the votes on one side. And use of the office to elect more of their party.”
He added that Hobbs and her Democrat backers don’t like the fact that “Arizona is a fundamentally conservative state, a plurality of Republican registration.”
According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office, as of Nov. 1, 2018, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state by approximately 137,000 voters. That said, the second largest category behind the GOP is independent or “other,” coming in at approximately 1.2 million in number.
Hobbs was asked about her comment during a recent interview with Phoenix NBC News affiliate KPNX with political anchor Brahm Resnik telling the candidate, “that sounds pretty political.”
She responded, “For me it’s really about that fairness, making sure every eligible voter can participate.”
Resnik followed up: “How will you assure voters though, you are non-partisan? This is not about getting more Democrats elected?”
Her answer appeared to contradict her remarks from April.
“The secretary of state’s office should be the most non-partisan office, that we elect,” she said. “The person who oversees our elections needs to be neutral and not take a side.”
The editorial board for Arizona’s largest newspaper, The Arizona Republic, gave the candidate a pass, writing in its endorsement Op-Ed for the Democrat: “Hobbs’ comments followed a point about how she thinks the elections system in Arizona is rigged to exclude some voters. She said she wants to fight to make the process open to every eligible voter.”
Gaynor — a businessman who defeated Arizona’s current Secretary of State Michele Reagan in the GOP primary following some high-profile snafus during her tenure — says with iVote’s additional $1 million expenditure, he is being outspent at a better than 2-to-1 ratio.
The secretary of state’s race appears to be very close.
An ABC15/OH Predictive Insights poll released in mid-October gave Gaynor a healthy 50 to 36 percent lead over Hobbs; however a survey published by HighGround, Inc. this week, has Hobbs pulling into a slight 1.2 percent lead (within the margin of error), 45 to approximately 43 percent, with 11 percent still undecided or not responding.
Asked why he thought iVote has spent so heavily in the race in support of Hobbs, Gaynor said, “They saw in her somebody whose ideology and motive match theirs.”
On its website, iVote touted, “Katie Hobbs could not stop a law that made collecting mail-in ballots for others a felony. So instead she wants to limit its impact as the next secretary of state.”
“It’s done under the guise of guarding against voter fraud, though in the case of ‘ballot harvesting,’ tales of political operatives steaming open ballots in microwaves and chucking certain votes in the trash were provided without a whit of supporting evidence,” iVote claims.
Rather than easing mail-in voter fraud protections, Gaynor wants to see them strengthened.
In an interview on KTAR earlier this week, the candidate voiced his support for mail-in voting, noting that 75 to 80 percent of Arizonans (including himself) vote in this fashion, but expressed concern that the process could be abused if voter rolls are not kept current, and there are not better protections for signature verification.
“The only issue that I see with it is that I’ve looked at some of the signature verification procedures — I think that could be improved,” Gaynor said. “I think the signature capture and verification process should be improved, but aside from that, I think vote by mail is great.”
Gaynor pointed out to The Western Journal that Arizona’s overall election security processes, which includes cybersecurity, earned a “D” rating, putting it in the bottom tier among the 50 states.
His goal would be to move the state to the top tier by the end of his four-year term.
“The choice for the voters is someone who would run the office like a business, non-partisan, where the function of the office would be to serve the voters, not for some partisan purpose,” Gaynor said.
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